Friday, January 14, 2011

Life before the internet

This week, I had a song stuck in my head. It was from a cassette tape that I used to listen to on long car trips. I remembered just one line from the song. So what did I do? I searched the internet. Eventually I found the song, though I needed some mommy intervention to track down the artist because in my madness, I decided I had to have the EXACT arrangement I remembered from my youth or my brain would explode and leave random musical notes all over the floor.

So in honor of my gotta-know crazies, let's celebrate by discussing what we used to do in the monochrome-monitor days before the web.

1. If you had a line from a song stuck in your head, you ended up in a lovely padded room wearing a straitjacket. Because if you couldn't match that one lonely line with its song by doing a Google search, you went crazy, hearing the same lyrics in your brain over and over.

2. If you had a research project, you went to the library. If your homework was due the next day and the library was across town and there was a major snowstorm, you broke out your snowshoes because failure was not an option.

3. To find out what happened on TV, you waited for the morning news. So if you were watching the last game of the World Series and you answered the phone because you didn't have caller ID and it turned out to be a telemarketer in those prehistoric pre-Do Not Call days, and you missed the last inning while the salesman tried to convince you that his brand of pepper spray would really keep you safe from thugs though you actually wished you could use it on him for interrupting the game, and you missed the bottom half, well, you'd have to tough it out for several hours until you either read the paper or watched the news.

4. Encyclopedias weren't all that bad. Sure, they were heavy, took up lots of space in your dining room, and cost about three house payments for a set, which sacrifice you made so your children would be up-to-date on current events, at least until they drew all over them with their crayons and tore the vellum-thin paper into strips for their paper-mâché art project. But they were the key of knowledge! They were filled with information about current events, or at least they were current the year you bought them. It wasn't until they had fifteen years' worth of dust on them that you realized that maybe, just maybe, they weren't so current anymore.

5. If you wanted to stay in touch with your camp buddies, you exchanged addresses. Better hope you had a good place to keep that scrap o' ever-loving forever-friends scrawl of snail mail info, because if not, sayonara, buddy! If you couldn't put a stamp on it, your friendship was toast.

And also, if you were a writer, you sent all your queries and manuscripts by snail mail. It took several days to reach its destination each way. And I think I have to wait a long time for editors now! Although, now that I think about it, maybe it evened out the playing field a little bit. There weren't as many writers in those days. Who wants to meet a deadline by trekking to the library wearing snowshoes to research (by perusing encyclopedias, naturally), write, and edit an article so it will be ready for the post office several days in advance?

1 comment:

elissacruz said...


Though, sadly, I now feel depressed. Why? Because I realized just how old I really am.

Happy 28th birthday, Internet! (And, yes, I had to google how old the internet is.)